Maintenance and management issues keep Mississagi Park, Lighthouse, closed to public

The famous Mississagi Lighthouse has been closed to the public for several years.

MELDRUM BAY—The Mississagi Lighthouse and campground remains closed this summer, for a third season, awaiting major work to be done to the building and for someone to take it over. Because of all of this, members of the public are not being allowed access to the property.

“What is happening is that the place is in such disrepair we can’t let people in there,” stated Derek Stephens, a member of the Destination Manitoulin Island (DMI) board, last week. “Until we find a group to take it over, it will remained closed.”

“It needs major repairs,” stated Mr. Stephens. “COVID did not help. Until someone takes it over and repairs are done not much is going to happen,” he said, noting, “I wouldn’t want to put a dollar figure on the cost it would take to make the repairs.”

Mr. Stephens explained, “I took a tour of the lighthouse about a year ago and it is beautiful. However, it’s the infrastructure that is around it that is not,” stated Mr. Stephens, noting, “I actually hold the lease for the building for DMI. Everything is on hold until COVID is gone and work is done. It is dilapidated.”

Jarred Noble, plant manager of the Lafarge/Holcim, which owns the road that allows access through their property to the lighthouse and campground told The Expositor, “Basically it is owned by DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) and is leased by DMI. We don’t have any control over whether the buildings and campground are open.”

The access gate to the property is closed, said Mr. Noble. “We can’t have it open if no one is back there managing the property and buildings. There are a lot of renovations that need to take place.” He explained that some people think they can access the property even if the gate is closed. “We have signs up indicating the locked gate, and signs that people are not allowed to access the property through our gate, and signs posted that trespassers will be charged if they cross.”

Mr.Noble said “some of the people that have gone on the property have been caught more than once,” noting, “it is a liability issue for us. We are doing our best to keep access to the property closed. It has to remain closed if no one is operating the facilities.”

Visitors and potential visitors to the lighthouse and campground, along with others, have voiced their frustration that they are not allowed on the lighthouse and campground property. “People want to go to the lighthouse, or they go and come back from going to the lighthouse and they are ticked off because they can’t get on the property,” said Rick Nelson, curator of the Old Mill Heritage Museum in Kagawong. He said many people express frustration to him about the situation with the lighthouse when they visit the museum in Kagawong.  Mr. Nelson and Bill Caesar are co-chairs of the Manitoulin Lighthouse committee.

Mr. Nelson told The Expositor he talked to a member of the DMI board, “and I told them that they need to confirm that the lighthouse and campground are closed and to put out a press release to let the general public know. If you go to the DMI website, there is nothing there explaining that this is the case. This is the third season that it has been closed since the pandemic hit.”

“I’ve heard that Lafarge has had to escort people off the property,” continued Mr. Nelson. “I’ve been begging DMI to put out some type of statement to let people know what is going on, but they aren’t responding to any of my messages anymore,” continued Mr. Nelson. “They initially responded to my inquiries but for a long time now they have gone silent.”

Mr. Stephens told The Expositor the lighthouse site is still owned by the DFO.  “There are some grants out there (for needed repair work to be carried out) and we (DMI) have applied for them, but haven’t heard any response yet.”

“For now, it is a case of hurry up and wait,” said Mr. Stephens. “This is the third year the lighthouse and campground have been closed. “Last year I was up there on a tour of the facility with a couple of the (DMI) board members. “The lighthouse is beautiful, but looking at it and its condition, we can’t let the public in there. There was a group from Silver Water who indicated they would like to take it over but I don’t know where the talks are on this.”